Honoring Lee Roy Selmon
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
LUTZ - Family man. Ferocious. Selfless. Hero. Humanitarian. Gentle giant. Strong believer in God.
Lee Roy Selmon was all of the above and much more in the 56 years he spent tackling quarterbacks and touching the world.
No matter how you choose to describe him, one thing always will be certain - he'll never be forgotten.
More than 1,000 family members, friends, colleagues and fans paid tribute to the former USF Director of Athletics and NFL Hall of Famer during his memorial service Friday at Idlewild Baptist Church.
"If we live life a bit like Lee Roy Selmon, this will be a better world," USF Director of Athletics Doug Woolard said during one of many speeches about a man called "the father of USF football" by USF President Judy Genshaft.
The list of guests listening to each kind word was impressive.
Numerous USF athletic teams, coaches and administrators filled a choir that overlooked the celebration of Selmon's life, while members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had prime seats for the ceremony. Three mayors also attended along with the entire staff from Lee Roy Selmons Restaurants, USF boosters and Bucs fans.
"As we gather now, I think we could say that Lee Roy would be humbled that we gather to honor him. But he'll look at us and say, 'No, I want to honor you," said Selmon's brother, Dewey, who played football alongside him from childhood, to Oklahoma, to the expansion Bucs.
That's how it was for a man who helped get the Bucs and Bulls off the ground without muttering one complaint along the way.
Before Tampa Bay was in its heydays during the Super Bowl run, it once was a franchise that needed someone people could strongly associate the Bucs with. That man was Lee Roy Selmon, who still holds Tampa Bay's records for sacks and forced fumbles.
"For so many years, Lee Roy became the go-to person for any star power we needed in the office," said Bryan Glazer, whose family has owned the Bucs since 1995. "... I can't imagine how many times he made appearances for the team, and every time he'd just say, 'Yes.' "
The same was true when USF's athletics program wanted to be a player in football. Through numerous roles as a Bull, Selmon not only helped the young program get the sport, but he also was a major reason why the team is now in a BCS conference.
"To this day, they still talk about the impression he made on them," said Genshaft of the Big East, which USF joined for the 2005 season. "Lee Roy's knowledge, demeanor and integrity helped to seal the deal."
Genshaft sincerely noted USF "can't imagine the campus without him," and now Selmon's name will forever be associated with it. The USF Board of Trustees unanimously approved Genshaft's request to rename the USF athletics center the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center.
"Lee Roy Selmon's legacy carries on at the University of South Florida," Genshaft said. "... He set the standard and now it is our turn to carry it forward."
Woolard admitted one of the reasons why he accepted his position at USF was because of Selmon, who remained a strong fundraiser for the program well after he stepped down as AD in 2004.
"When the history of USF football is written, Lee Roy will surely be the founding father," Woolard said. "He wouldn't accept that, of course. He would just shrug his shoulders with a smile and say he was just one member of a great team."
Selmon was a member of many great teams before USF, and some of his former teammates made the trip for Friday's special ceremony.
"Heaven is rejoicing at the entering of Lee Roy. I imagine God waiting with open arms, excited to show him the newly opened Lee Roy Selmon Stadium," said former Buc Richard Wood, who drew some laughs from a smiling crowd.
"I love you. God Bless you, rest in peace. By the way, if you ever need a strong safety on your team, I'd love to line up behind you one more time," an emotional Wood added.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn loved to watch Selmon play back in his Bucs days, but he used his opportunity Friday to speak about what No. 63 did in the community. Selmon mentored countless young people, was a big supporter of the Special Olympics as well as the United Negro College Fund Sports Committee.
"Tampa is a better place because of Lee Roy Selmon calling this his home," Buckhorn said.
Friday's last speaker, Dr. Jeffery L. Singletary, summed up Selmon's life from a spiritual sense calling him a "two-time champion," in this life and the next.
"He got it right," said Singletary, with a strong agreement from attendees who never will forget Selmon - no matter what kind way they choose to describe him.